Day 2: In search of Kamikochi
12 Oct, 2010
On the second day of our roadtrip we planned to go to Kamikochi in the morning/afternoon and if we have some time left we would also check out the Kiso Valley. Along the Kiso Valley a few post towns have been preserved to look as they did when they served travelers of the Nakasendo.
Kamikochi is an approximately 15 kilometer long plateau, 1500 meters above sea level and situated in the Azusa River Valley. It is surrounded by mountains. Normal cars are not allowed inside Kamikochi, access is only available by taxi or bus. So we set our Japanese navigation to Sawando station, where we could take the bus to Kamikochi (which we read on a website). By the way, setting the navigation system is not easy either. Everything was written in Japanese kanji’s (Chinese characters)! We left the Tourist Hotel Matsumoto at 09.00am.
First stop: McDonalds! to get some breakfast. Because the mac is inside the supermarket, we did some groceries, to buy some obento (sushi and soba) for the afternoon lunch.
Our navigation took us to the south of Matsumoto, which Remi thought was strange because he thought Kamikochi was to the west of Matsumoto. It said it would take about 50 minutes. Anyway, we trusted our navigation system and just followed the route through beautiful Japan.
Very strange sight, here they stacked up a lot of televisions and computer screens on each other. For what reason, we had no idea! And what happens if it rains? It would be something we will never know…
Pitstop at Lawson. Great thing about Japan, toilets (free of charge!) are everywhere along the roads. We usually went to convenient stores to stretch our legs and take a break.
After about 50 minutes we arrived at Sawando station. But this station is in the middle of nowhere and the station looked deserted! And there were no busses to be seen around the area. After asking around, it appeared that Nagano Prefecture has 2 Sawando stations, and yes with the exact same Kanji writing. Who made that up?! So the right Sawando station was indeed to the west of Matsumoto. This means we had to drive all the way back to Matsumoto and then a little further for the real Sawando station, this would take us another 1,5 hours. :(
On top of that, on the way to the correct Sawando, the shortest route was closed for traffic. In the picture on the left we were standing in front of the closed road. Another bummer. Eventually we followed the Japanese road signs and we were on our way to our destination again! This trip to Kamikouchi was taking a lot longer than we had forecasted.
Japans nature is so amazingly beautiful. The whole way driving through this area (Nagano prefecture), the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. There were also quite a lot of tunnels, guiding us through the many mountains the prefecture has. This sighting was really memorable. At the end of one of the tunnels we were blown away by this wonderful bit of nature shown on the picture above. The Mountains, the lake and well pretty much everywhere we looked.
Soon after we arrived at Sawando station. Unfortunately we wasted a lot of time with our detours. But we didn’t really mind going in the wrong direction, because of the amazing sceneries we have seen. When parking our car at the station, a taxi driver offered us a ride to Kamikochi for 1000 yen each person. He told us it’s the same price as the bus. This way we wouldn’t have to wait for the bus. Sounded good to us, so we took the cab and were on our way to Kamikochi for real now.
The taxi ride took 15 mins and we finally arrived at Kamikochi. We left our hotel (Matsumoto Tourists Hotel) at 09.00 and we arrived at 15.30. We did make a lot of pit stops but it was supposed to be a 50mins drive from Matsumoto. The last bus back to Sawando station was at 18.10, so to be on the safe side we gave ourselves 1,5 to 2 hours to go hiking in the area. Bit on the short side, but it’s better than nothing I guess!
Kamikochi turned out to be one of the most stunning natural areas I’ve seen so far. The tall trees, water and mountains everywhere. Also the leaves were starting to turn into their fall-colors. So beautiful!
On the left you see Remi in action with his camera. I like this picture a lot, because of the sun shining on the yellowy leaves.
There were big paths along the way, which made hiking here rather easy. We were walking along side the river the whole time, although you couldn’t see it through all the trees.
Yes! The first wild monkey we have ever seen! He’s a bit camouflaged, try to find him! :)
This is one of my favorite pictures of the weekend! Beautiful leaves turning orange. Can’t wait until it has all changed colors!
Some things nature create are just so beautiful. And all of this while being surrounded by mountains.
Japanese people are always very fanatic in whatever they do. You always see them wearing semi professional/expensive gear. Whether it be hiking, driving on a bicycle you see it so often. It was quickly getting dark though and time was ticking. We really had to head back to the bus.
Enjoying the amazing Japanese nature. :)
After 2 hours of hiking we took the bus back to Sawando station and headed on “home” to our hotel in Matsumoto. Turns out a one way ticket back to Sawando was 1200 yen, so the cab driver lied to us! A 2way ticket (2000 yen) was in total cheaper than a 1way ticket (1200 yen). This is the first dishonest Japanese person we have ever met! Though it’s not that bad, in the end we paid 400 yen more than normal and did not have to wait for the bus :P
This time driving back to Matsumoto did indeed take about 50 minutes. Damn… we sure made a detour.
Next to the roads in Matsumoto we saw this 100 yen sushi place. Each plate of sushi cost only 105 yen, including tax (92 eurocent)! We just had to go in!
It’s kaiten sushi (a.k.a. conveyer belt sushi according to Wikipedia)! This place is so cool. It had about 3 of the kaiten sushi circles people could sit around. They also had a order system with something that looks similar to a fake ipad. Just select the item you would like on the touchscreen and… choo choo! Here come’s the Shinkansen with the sushi you ordered on it (see picture above). I just think this system is genious!!
So it kinda felt like たべほだい (all you can eat) because it was just so damn cheap! We stuffed our faces with sushi and in the end we nearly exploded! We ate 15 plates of sushi. We even took a doggy bag home because we couldn’t finish all the plates. But looking at the table next to us, another couple ate about 30 plates!!! Guess we’re still noobs…
After sushi we went to do some grocery shopping at about 9 p.m. In Matsumoto area there were tons of huge supermarkets open 24/7. After that we headed back to the hotel.
Even though we didn’t do as much as we planned to, this day has been great! We have enjoyed the round trip through this amazing country.